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Part 2 Human resource management in practice - Palgrave

Part 2 Human resource management in practice - Palgrave


134 Human resource management in practice usually used to track what is required and what is to be avoided for the success or failure of the job. The process can be onerous as it requires fairly detailed descriptions of what the employee did during a particular incident and explanations of why the performance was effective or ineffective; for this reason, it is not commonly used across routine tasks. . In addition to these qualitative approaches, quantitative question- Exercise naires such as the position analysis questionnaire provide useful data When would quantitative that can be used to compare information across a range of jobs (Jean- approaches to job analysis neret and Strong, 2003). These quantitative surveys usually break jobs be more suitable than down into standardized dimensions that are rated; the information qualitative approaches? obtained can then be used to differentiate jobs with respect to levels of complexity, processing and responsibility. Despite the usefulness and importance of job analysis, a number of writers have explained that the rational approach described above – which breaks each job down and produces specific job descriptions and specifications – may no longer be viable. As the rate of technology changes and work becomes more knowledge-based, task boundaries created by traditional job classifications are dissipating. Jobs have become more flexible, and their boundaries are vague and dynamic (Brannick et al., 2007). Stewart and Carson (1997) have argued that, along with the move away from traditional hierarchical structure and control towards flexible, team-based designs, employees have become more than simple components that fit a series of static job descriptions. A key idea is the development of emerging relationships that may create new networks between employees. These emerging networks do not, however, always have a comfortable fit with traditional structures. The more fluid connections mean that what needs to be done and who does it becomes a product of what each person brings into the organization and how they connect with existing staff. Therefore, rather than work roles being planned and fixed, they become indefinite. It is more likely that jobs will develop around individuals rather than the reverse. Therefore, as well as impacting on job content, environmental pressures have led to re-evaluations of who is employed and how the employer–employee relationship is managed. The following section shifts our discussion away from a review of how HRP is approached, to a broader discussion of managing the strategic issues associated with an over- or undersupply of labour and with attempts to maintain the employee–employer relationship during these periods. The strategic role of HRP Restructuring and downsizing Over the last two decades, technological and market changes have prompted major reviews of organizational processes and structure. During periods of economic uncertainty, firms struggle to find ways to cut costs and become more efficient and effective. Payroll expenses and employee downsizing are often 9780230251533_07_cha06.indd 134 01/11/2011 12:09

Human resources planning targeted during periods of recession, for example, as a way to boost company profits (Cascio and Wynn, 2004). Indeed, the Corporate Leadership Council (2008) reported that, by the end of 2008, 20 per cent of Australian and New Zealand firms were preparing for the inevitable downturn in 2009 and had indicated that they might either freeze or downsize their staffing levels in the 6-month period following the financial crisis alert in the October. The promise of workforce reduction is an immediate reduction of costs, coupled with increased levels of efficiency, productivity and competitiveness (Farrell and Mavondo, 2004; Iverson and Zatzick, 2007). Unfortunately, the expectations of economic benefits following employee reductions are often not realized (Gandolfy, 2008). In an analysis of the financial impact of downsizing, Cascio and Wynn (2004) compared employers adopting a stable position with those who chose to downsize and found no consistent evidence to support the notion that employment downsizing led to an improvement in financial indicators such as return on assets. The economic premise that profit is driven by either a reduction in costs or an increase in revenues is complicated by the human reactions associated with a reduction in the workforce. Organizations face problems with diminished productivity and loyalty, and loss of critical organizational knowledge. The negative consequences of an organizational downsizing response can include heightened levels of stress, conflict, role ambiguity and job dissatisfaction among employees (Appelbaum et al., 1999). Downsizing survivors – those employees who remain in the organization – generally find themselves with increased workloads and responsibilities without the necessary training and support. These stresses result in a range of mental and physical illness that impact on the quality of their work. Indeed, Gandolfy (2008), in a review of the research in the area, has shown that the ‘victims’, or those who are involuntarily downsized out of the job, report more positive outcomes than employees who stay. Victims commonly received transition packages and outplacement services and support, felt lower levels of stress in the job and experienced fewer negative effects than survivors. Such conditions may also encourage talented employees who are already comfortable with mobility to leave organizations that do not offer the appropriate opportunities for development and advancement. A primary reason given for the negative consequences associated with downsizing is the poor execution and management of these reduction initiatives (Appelbaum et al., 1999). It is possible, however, to strategically manage workforce reductions and tensions during periods of economic stress through effective HRM approaches. Cascio and Wynn (2004) similarly argue that downsizing remains a viable and sometimes necessary response to environmental pressure, but reinforce that how the process is executed is critical (Box 6.2). Specifically, employees’ involvement and input are key in creating a sense of psychological control over events that have such major personal consequences. Avoiding rumours by honest, consistent and regular communication from the executive group can also assist in reducing stress levels. 9780230251533_07_cha06.indd 135 01/11/2011 12:09 135 6

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